Dear Thelma Lou,
When I first brought you home, I couldn’t quit saying, “You’re the sweetest puppy I’ve ever known.”
I would do this for hours, speaking in a high-pitched voice like a certifiable lunatic.
But I couldn’t help myself, it was true. You actually are the sweetest puppy I have ever known.
Tonight, we are apart. You’re sleeping in a veterinary clinic instead of with me.
I don’t want you to worry about anything. It’s just a small, harmless tumor on your eyelid, nothing serious, doctors say you’ll be fine.
Tomorrow morning, the surgeon will sedate you, you’ll go to sleep, they’ll snip the tumor. Voila. Before you know it, you’ll be eating cat poop again.
But nighttime is the hard part. You’re in a cage, and I’m not with you. I’m writing you because I want you to know I’m thinking about you.
And you shouldn’t be scared because—and you might not know this, Thel—though we are apart, we are actually together.
Distance might separate us, but distance is not real. Nothing can separate love. I know it sounds crazy, but hearts do not know the difference between miles and minutes.
I first came to believe this when I was seventeen.
One night, I was on a truck tailgate in a hayfield outside Freeport, Florida. I was eating barbecue, looking at the sky, missing someone I once loved.
And it all sort of hit me at once. I don’t know what hit me, exactly, all I can tell you is that “it” hit me.
I can’t explain it. If I could explain it, then it wouldn’t be the real thing.
But when this moment happened I saw something—and I swear it on Bear Bryant’s grave. It was a shooting star.
Suddenly, I felt warm all over. It was as though I were surrounded by a great company of the heavenly host. Friends, ghosts, good dogs, parents, infant souls, and deceased football coaches with six national titles.
Since that evening, I have believed in a glue that binds the universe together. The same power that makes grass grow and worlds turn.
It makes barbecue sauce sweet, marigolds yellow, biscuits fluffy, and the sky big. Some call it love. I don’t care what you call it.
Anyway, I know, it’s ridiculous to talk this way to a dog. After all, you’re not human. But then, I have no children, and who else is there?
Heaven didn’t see fit to bless us with kids, instead it gave us dogs like you and your brother. And I am grateful for it.
I will never forget the sunny day I met you. It was a farm in Molino, Florida. You were running toward me in an open field. You were all ears. You couldn’t run a straight line, your skin was loose, you smelled like a dead possum.
I held you in my arms; you bit my ear and drew blood. I kissed you; you headbutted me. And I knew I needed you.
Long ago, when I was a boy, I had a dog named Goldie. I met her the same way I met you. She became my closest friend. She slept in my bed, she waited in a windowsill for me to arrive home from school, she followed me like a shadow.
On the night she passed, before her eyes rolled backward, I promised her something. It’s a promise I have made to every dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of loving. And I’m promising it to you, Thel.
I promise to love you. That’s what this letter is, I suppose. A love letter.
I have nothing but words, you see, but words are precious to me. And, even though your eyes will never be human enough to read this, and your ears will never understand, you will feel it. And that’s enough.
Well, it’s late, and I’m rambling. I’m typing a letter to a bloodhound. People are going to think I’ve lost my mind. Maybe I have. I guess I’m just not used to sleeping alone.
You are the sweetest puppy I’ve ever known.